Dating Science: Do Feminists Make for Better Girlfriends?

Cristen Conger

This is what a feminist on a date looks like.
This is what a feminist on a date looks like.
Associated Press

You know what's a fun topic to bring up on a first date with a guy? Feminism. Once you get hard-lined religious and political beliefs out of the way (preferably in the car, on the way to date destination or maybe during the appetizer if you must wait that long), I highly recommend you toss out a couple of Betty Friedan or bell hooks quotes, and see if the gent picks up on it and responds with an appropriate Simone de Beauvoir reference. Or maybe just ask how much money he makes as a good segue into discourse on the gender pay gap or a nuanced debate on whether the 'glass ceiling' still exists for today's young women. Awkward silences: not gonna happen, guaranteed.

Sounds crazy, right? What heterosexual woman in her right mind would dare broach the topic of feminism on a first (or second, or third...) date? Somewhere along the way, we collectively misconstrued the fight against unequal gender roles as an argument against romance. So while feminism encourages women to develop quite possibly the most attractive traits people can possess -- confidence, intelligence, self-sufficiency, etc. -- we're socialized to tuck it away, lest risk frightening some poor fellow away. As a result, plenty of men and women alike embrace feminism's basic tenets of gender equality, yet fear identifying with it directly due to its negative stigma. But closet feminists playing the dating game might be shooting themselves in the foot by not letting that light shine a little brighter.

A 2007 study from Rutgers psychologists concluded that feminism benefits women in romantic relationships as well as the men. And for an added bonus, feminist lovin' couples also reported more satisfaction between the sheets. Win-win!

The psychologists polled roughly 600 heterosexual undergrads and older adults to compare participants' beliefs about feminism and their relationship health. According to the survey results, men's feminism had a stronger correlation with positive relationship health than women's feminism or participants' perceptions of their partners' feminism. Therefore, a woman's feminism doesn't make or break the romance at all. It's the feminist men out there who are relationship revolutionaries. After all, they identified more strongly with partner equality, which predicted greater stability and sexual satisfaction.

So maybe tossing out a Steinem reference over cocktails isn't such a terrible idea. Because while feminists make for fabulous girlfriends, social science suggests they make for even better boyfriends.